What is Clown Academy?
Cameron: The Clown Academy is an abandoned school that clowns have taken over to carry on the tradition of clownery, and they use classic board games to teach. So, each room is a subtly mocked with a board game, and each student has to participate into each room to progress.
Chase: We wanted to take a haunted house and add different elements into it so that it is more than just a walkthrough. So, there are little moments and little scenes within the maze that people can really enjoy and appreciate the immersive feel to it.
How Did the Clown Academy Come To Be?
Cameron: I love clowns and I love the circus and we knew we couldn’t do a traditional, under the big top, elephants, you’re in a cage, and then he had the idea of pairing it with the school.
Chase: We always wanted this like grungy, seventies, rundown…
Cameron: They’ve been doing this since 1901, they’re tired, they have to do this, they’re on a loop, if you want to go Black Mirror,
Chase: The biggest thing is your walking in on them, they’re not waiting for you. I think that was one of the biggest parts, is that they are living in amongst this space and you are interrupting them with every room you go into.
Cameron: We build off the tasks too. What is it in a school that we wanted to do that we couldn’t do? Pull a fire alarm, do a Ouija board in the bathroom, or misbehaviors, like waking up your teacher—because everyone had a substitute teacher that just slept. Chase here used to be obsessed with aquariums. So, I kind of designated the freezer as my vision, he had the cafeteria as his vision. He was like, “I’m going to get a fryer, I’m going to hook it up to an aquarium system, and make it bubble, and people can reach their hands in.” I’m like, “brilliant, absolutely brilliant.”
Chase: Once we got that initial school/academy feel everything built off of that, and then our minds just went crazy as far as what we could do and divide the space into.
Cameron: All of our family and friends, as well as our biggest supporters and fans, are woven into the maze; on the bathroom walls, on the nurses statistics to whose body parts cost what, and in the classroom, on the tests for John Wayne Gacy, other local haunt and escape room owners.
Everything has to be branded, everything has to be a theme, if you’re going to ask me a question when we’re out here, we’re technically students with our shirts on. Inside, our actors definitely have to be good at improv. It’s like, “What’d you have this morning?” If you’re in the cafeteria, “oh, I had worms and beetles, like every other day.”
The Clown Academy’s Challenge During Build
Philip: What is the biggest challenge for you, right now, getting through the rest of the season?
Cameron: Mine isn’t necessarily getting through the rest of the season. This is smooth sailing, it’s on idle. Building it, I had never done sound before, I don’t understand technology or soundboards, or the little green, little plates and wires. So, sound triggers, I left one day.
Chase: Good thing no one was here. There were words that have never, will never be spoken again.
Cameron: Triggers are the death of me, and sound, so moving forward, those will be hired out.
Chase: I agree with everything. He did it, not me, so I’m not going to take any…
Cameron: Incredible, it’s so easy to us. I grew up in Kentucky, so I’m used to building with wood and like on a farm. So, set dressing easy to us, it’s the tech that will be outsourced.
What Caused the Change in Direction for Clown Academy?
Chase: First off, just for our own preference. The event last year was an hour and 30 minutes from our home, so we miss one thing, we leave one thing home, and it’s a whole half day wasted. Just also getting our actors up there and back just wasn’t the most convenient thing. And we had a very specific format that we did out there that, I think, was very successful for the space that we were in, but we really wanted to figure out how we could expand the company. With that format we could really only go so far with an experience that long; the amount of cars that were able to get up there and such.
So, that was really our big difficulty, so we wanted to really bring it back home, get it more local, get more people involved, to really branch out from here. Because, with what we were doing it could only go so far.
Philip: And where are you going to go now?
Chase: We have a lot of different concepts we’re playing with.
Cameron: And different industries, especially in the spring time. Concepts and themes are easy, our number one issue every single year is the location. We got this one in July, so we had to throw it together in two months as far as planning, construction, and everything. I want to do aliens next year.
Chase Shares a Creepy Incident That Happened During Build
Chase: Oh my God, okay, here’s the thing. So, he’s away on a wedding. I am here building whatever, and I’m upstairs fidgeting with something, all right? And then all of a sudden, the picture on the wall begins to shake. I’m upstairs, okay, and it’s only me, it’s 11:00 PM at night. And it starts to shake, and then the whole entire place. And, first off, I just thought someone is either here, someone’s fucking with me. It’s a haunted house, I don’t know what the fuck who is here, he’s whatever, and come to find out was an earthquake. I’m like, I’m getting the hell out of here, that’s it. But that was a good experience for me, by myself.
Chase’s Final Thoughts on the Clown Academy
Chase: I think our haunted house isn’t going to be terrifying, it’s not extreme, we focus on different scares rather than coming out of a window or a jump scare, kind of anticipation scares, or play-on. If you want to have fun, great, come to us. If you want to be absolutely terrified and shaking in a corner, don’t expect that with us, but expect to have a good time.